ROSIE IT AIN'T

Robots, they’re just like us: Google’s bot now does mundane chores

In the future, we’ll come home to find our dishes clean, our floors vacuumed, and our surfaces dusted, all thanks to our dutiful servant bots. But until then, there’s the multimillion-dollar Atlas robot, created by Google corporate sibling Boston Dynamics.

Researchers at the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, working with a Boston Dynamics robot, recently finished second in last summer’s DARPA Robotics Challenge. Now they’re working on “whole-body coordinate motions” like sweeping and vacuuming.

In the video, Atlas seems to be completing whatever tasks researchers can throw at it—albeit very slowly—but in reality, the robot is being partially controlled by a human, as it was at the DRC. John Carff, one of Atlas’ operators told IEEE that he tells the robot what it wants to do, such as pick up a bottle, and the robot will respond showing him how it plans to pick up that bottle. “If I’m okay with the plan the robot has come up with, I tell it to execute that motion,” Carff said.

Boston Dynamics’ parent company, Alphabet, is in the process of reorganizing its robotics division within its research arm, the succinctly renamed X. Based on the haphazard cleaning of the robot in the video—including some problematic sweeping and vacuum techniques—we’re not likely to see Rosie the Robot gracing our homes anytime soon.

“In the future, I can see a lot of what was done in this video moving more to the autonomous side,” Carff said, “but I always see there being a human in the loop.”

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